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Stationed in a foreign country, on a US military base, I had to make an unfamiliar land my home away from home. Our unit had a doctor in it, and he became one of my closest friends. Jeff was a great guy, very charming, and it seemed like he could talk his way out of any problem – even with people who didn’t speak our language!

We were out on patrol one night and heard shouting. We called it in and ran over, fearing the worst. What we found was a small boy – one of the local kids – who had tripped and scraped his knee. Well, didn’t Jeff patch him up with his field kit, showing a great bedside manner for a guy in full tactical gear.

As time went on, I saw Jeff handle far more dangerous and harrowing wounds and troubles, and on a couple of missions, I helped him out, as he directed; I picked up some good skills, and Jeff started telling me about medicine. Having seen first-hand how military forces need on-site medical professionals, I believe that I can serve as a better soldier by becoming a physician.

I was confident that I could handle the pressure and the psychological aspects of being a doctor, as my tours of duty have pushed me to the limit. However, I was proven wrong and learned a lesson in humility instead. Since I have been back and preparing to enter medical school, I began volunteering at a nearby hospital. Some of my duties include liaising with patients and their families. Needing to create a connection and leave space for questions, expressions of sorrow, and sympathy in long conversations about difficult issues is a different kind of pressure and creates a burden that I am proud to carry and humbled to admit is tougher than I thought it would be.

While still volunteering at that facility, I decided to seek therapeutic assistance to help me with my past in the military and my present volunteering for the hospital. I see this preventive measure as a strength, not a sign of weakness. Frequenting a psychiatrist and having therapy sessions has given me insight into one of the most important aspects of medicine: psychology. My interest in the subject has grown immensely; therefore, I am taking psychology courses and plan to take some electives in psychiatry. Trauma care is indispensable as an army doctor, but I have come to believe that being able to handle psychological wounds is just as needed.

At present, I am focused on a total mind-body care approach to medicine, which I will apply in my ideal role as an army physician. Being able to offer such care would be extremely beneficial for members of my unit and others. In my military-medical career, I hope to help create better programs for PTSD and other military-specific injuries to mind and body. In terms of advocacy, I participate in initiatives, such as Local Veteran Services, to ensure that no active soldier or veteran of the armed forces ever has to worry about their mental or physical health care. While we cannot prevent all injuries, we must be able to offer direct, cutting-edge, best-possible health care for all our current and former armed forces.

To equip myself for this Herculean task, I require the advanced training only offered at your medical school. I want to make sure that I’m setting goals and pursuing them with logical, achievable steps. Between shadowing Jeff in the field and working on my coursework more recently, I believe I have been making good, consistent gains toward those goals and my knowledge of medicine. Looking to the future, I am building a network with Jeff and other army physicians who are interested in furthering the military’s response to the necessary health measures for their soldiers. This is an exciting journey, one which I believe will pay off wonderfully in the end.

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